WALT DISNEY'S SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS, book by Joe Cook; lyrics by Joe Cook and Larry Morey; music by Jay Blackton and Frank Churchill; scenery by John William Keck; lighting by Ken Billington; masks and animal costumes by Joe Stephen; directed and choreographed by Frank Wagner; musical direction by Donald Pippin.
With Mary Jo Salerno, Richard Bowne, Anne Francine, Clifford Fearl and Yolande Bavan.
At the National Theater through Jan. 20.
Early in Act Two of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" last night, the wicked queen held out her hand, displayed something the size of a small watermelon and the color of a cardinal's robe, and asked: "Who wouldn't want to bite into one of these delicious red apples?"
I think she meant it as a rhetorical question, but my friend Dori, who is 5, raised his hand vigorously. He was onto that apple. He was dubious about it. He had reservations.
So much for what Dori didn't like about "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." On the plus side, he cited the trees ("those were people in the trees," he observed astutely), the dwarfs (especially Dopey, "the green one") and the queen's chemistry lab, with its sinister raven perched to one side, cackling as each mischievous ingredient was added to the brew.
I would like to add one item to Dori's list; the talking mirror, the one that was constantly failing to tell the queen what she wanted to hear. When you stop to think about it, that mirror was a troublemaker. If it could only have minced its words a little, Snow White and the Queen might have made a go of it. But I liked the mirrow because of the strange green face that kept appearing there, as if by magic, and because it was one of the few characters in the play who spoke up.
It is time to divulge that Dori and I, as much as we liked the show at the National Theatre last night, did not pay the $18 that our orchestra seats were going for at the box office. If we had we might have been less amused by the recurring problems with the sound system that produced all that hissing and crackling and made Snow White her royal self sound, much of the time, as if she were singing inside a test tube.
On the other hand, we got to see a cast of 40, including some really neat bears, beavers and racoons; terrific scenery, including a forest with glowing eyes; an orchestra (Dori thought the music was coming from a record, so he went down to the orchestra pit for a reassuring look); and some famous people in the audience, including Amy Carter and Joe Theismann, whom Dori identified as "the man who sells the newspapers."
Just between us senior citizens, this is not one of those fairy tales that reaches triumphantly across the generation gap. Once your eyes have soaked in the elaborate sets, costumes and special effects, your ears feel slightly deprived. The songs, particularly the ones that weren't taken from the movie of the same name, are just a wee bit feeble. Prince Charming, for instance, sings, "I saw moonbeans dancing by in her smile. Her lips were berries in the Lane. She was near for only a monent. Will I ever see her again?"
But years from now, think what you'll be able to tell your grandchildren. You saw the original "Snow White," the one that was based on the movie that was based on the fairy tale!